Thomas will become first female referee in top tier of college football

Updated: September 14, 2007, 3:10 PM ET
Associated Press

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- A bit of history will be made Saturday night at a college football game in Tennessee.

Sarah Thomas will be wearing the zebra stripes when the University of Memphis plays Jacksonville State of Alabama at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium.

Thomas will become the first female official ever to work a major college football game. The schools play in the top division of college football, formerly NCAA Division I-A and now known as the Football Bowl Subdivision. She's a pharmaceutical saleswoman by day and has worked Mississippi high school games for 11 years.

This season Thomas earned a spot as one of 21 alternate officials who will work one or two non-conference games involving Conference USA teams this season.

"She came highly recommended by two NFL scouts," said Gerry Austin, a longtime NFL referee and the conference's coordinator of officials. "She has a good presence and demeanor. I feel like she has the ability and courage to make a call, and the guts to not make one, too."

Austin said there will be a lot of pressure on Thomas to succeed.

"I think it's like any other time you are the first one," Austin said. "If she does a good job, I think she will have a very positive effect. If she messes up, some people might say females aren't ready."


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press